King of The Bastards by Brian Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
With Albion in chaos, Rogan and his nephew wash up on a foreign shore. The primitive tribesman of the foreign land are being terrorized by a shaman with an alien god on his side. Can Rogan set things right and find his way back to his former kingdom?
I've made it no secret that I'm not fond of the typical Tolkien via Dungeons and Dragons style of fantasy that dominates the genre these days. When I want fantasy, I'm more into the Leiber/Howard/Moorcock style. Thankfully, King of the Bastards is just such a novel.
Rogan is an aging barbarian, like Conan if he survived to be sixty. Rogan reminds me not only of the lgendary Cimmerian but also Karl Edward Wagner's Kane and David Gemmell's Druss the Legend. In short, he's the baddest mother on the planet and not ready to go to the grave just yet.
King of Bastards is an homage to the glory days of pulp fantasy. If you're squeamish about violence and rampant sexism, this isn't the book for you. Rogan is randy for being a senior citizen and doesn't mind talking about it. He also isn't shy about dealing out violence and gore.
The plot isn't very complex but Keene and Shrewsbury get a lot of mileage of out it. It's a fun pulpy romp full of violence, gore, and funny one-liners. Rogan and his nephew encounter one breasted Amazons, natives, ape-men, giant snakes, zombies, and all sorts of other things. References are made to Keene's Labyrinth mythos and the Thirteen, and there was a Dark Tower reference as well.
Much like the fantasy of yesteryear, King of the Bastards was action packed and short enough not to overstay its welcome. If you yearn for the fantasy of yore, King of Bastards is what you're looking for. Four out of five stars.
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